SPOILER ALERT: This post contains spoilers for the novel Kafka on the Shore.
In Kafka on the Shore, finding the “entrance stone” is the main mission for the odd couple of Nakata and Hoshino. Driven by Nakata’s sixth sense, the pair ends up in Kagawa Prefecture’s capital of Takamatsu in hopes that the mysterious stone may be near. Luckily for them, they turn out to be right. After an encounter with the real-life Colonel Sanders (or at least some kind of spirit assuming his form), Hoshino is finally lead to the shrine containing what he and his partner had been seeking all along.
We can be pretty certain the main inspiration for the unnamed shrine in the novel comes from Takaya Shrine, located in the outskirts of the neighboring Sakaide City. However, it’s also possible that Murakami took partial inspiration from a shrine somewhere within central Takamatsu, as this is where the shrine is located in the story. During my visit to Kagawa Prefecture to research the real-life locations from the book, I tried visiting a number of shrines within city limits to observe similarities, if any, with the shrine from the novel.
We’re first introduced to the shrine (assuming it’s the same one) when Kafka wakes up covered in blood behind it. It’s described as having “extensive grounds” which are illuminated by a mercury lamp. We know that it’s surrounded by trees and bushes and there’s a restroom nearby. All these boxes can be ticked for Sakaide’s Takaya Shrine, but Kafka is able to flag down a cab right away and doesn’t pay more than ¥1,000 yen to get to Sakura’s apartment. This simply wouldn’t be possible from the backroads of Sakaide.
The closest thing to this description within Takamatsu city limits is probably Yashima Shrine, originally built in the 17th century and situated at the base of Yashima Mountain. Most people head straight for the top of the mountain to see the better-known Yashima Temple and the stunning views. No hiking or bus rides are required to visit Yashima Shrine, however. It can easily be accessed on foot from Yashima Station, shortly before ‘Shikoku Mura’ theme village.
Just like in the novel, Yashima Shrine is surrounded by bushes and trees and the size of the area is certainly extensive. Where it differs from the shrine in the novel is its lack of benches. It’s hard to picture where Colonel Sanders would’ve sat and waited for Hoshino to get back from the love hotel.
Whether Murakami took inspiration from it or not, Yashima Shrine is worth a visit and offers a great view of central Takamatsu in the distance. You also won’t likely run into too many other tourists. In fact, when I visited I was the only person there. It was strange being all alone in such a big shrine shortly before sundown, giving the place an eerie atmosphere very fitting of a Murakami novel.
TOKIWA INARI SHRINE
While Yashima Shrine is a train ride away from the center of the city, there are also a number of other shrines within walking distance of Takamatsu Station. Hoshino and Colonel Sanders meet in a random entertainment district somewhere in the city and from there they walk together to the shrine. There’s an interesting little shrine located just by Takamatsu’s extensive shopping arcade called Tokiwa Inari shrine.
Not only is it easy to picture the area nearby Tokiwa Inari as where Hoshino and Sanders may have met, but the shrine also features a couple of fox statues. You may recall the part of the novel where Hoshino says:
“Waiting for a girl on a bench in front of a shrine office—it’s hard to relax. I feel like I’m going to fall under the spell of one of those fox spirits or something.”
Tokiwa Inari is much smaller than the one described in the novel, but you might consider stopping by if you’re in the area. There are even a number of little red torii gates which reminded me of a minature version of Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari shrine.
Nearby I also visited a shrine known as Kotohira, not to be confused with the nearby town of Kotohira, home of the famous Konpirasan. This mid-size shrine has a trail leading up to it and is lined with trees on both sides. The shrine also appears to be older and there’s nothing fancy about it, which reminded me somewhat of the description in Kafka.
Yet another possibility is Yasaka Shrine, situated much farther east near the river. Colonel Sanders lead Hoshino over a bridge before arriving at the shrine so Yasaka might be a good fit as well.
If you’re a fan of the book, you should by all means go see Takaya Shrine in Sakaide. But wandering through Takamatsu and visiting shrines is still a lot of fun and might be one of the highlights of your time in the city.
Did you visit Takamatsu yourself and find anything I should mention? Be sure to let me know in the comments!
SHRINE ETIQUETTE IN JAPAN
Visiting a shrine in Japan but not sure exactly what to do or how to make an offering? At the larger shrines you may find fountains of water near the entrance. This water is meant for purification and all you have to do is pour some over your hands with the provided ladle. Some people take it a step further and rinse out their mouth. Just make sure to use your hand and do not drink directly from the ladle!
The smaller shrines might not even have a fountain and even when you see one, purification is not an absolute requirement.
To make an offering, throw a small coin into the box. Then, proceed to ring the bell (although there may not even be a bell at the smaller shrines). Next, bow deeply twice and then clap your hands together twice. Hold your hands together for a bit and then bow one more time.
This process is basically the same at a Buddhist temple in Japan, with the main different being that you’re only supposed to place your hands together without clapping.
It’s also completely fine to enter and walk around a shrine without doing any type of purification or offering. The key thing to remember is just to remain quiet and peaceful.